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'A Bad Moms Christmas' has the right cast but the wrong spirit

Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn in the film, "A Bad Moms Christmas." (STX Entertainment)
Published Nov. 1, 2017

A Bad Moms Christmas is a comedy with better casting than jokes, a sequel sticking to the formula of using twice as much of whatever worked before.

In this case, that means finding three women matching the diversely go-girl spirits of Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn in the original. Bad Moms' premise of women gone (temporarily) wild wasn't particularly well-written or -staged, but they carried it off.

Sticking with the mother motif, we meet some reasons these moms went bad. Kunis' uptight Amy gets Christine Baranski as the mother smothering her holiday spirit. Cheryl Hines' sweet vacancy is so attuned to Bell's Kiki that a DNA test may be in order. And perhaps only Susan Sarandon can convey a mature version of Hahn's sexually combustible Carla.

That's a terrific lineup of women obviously having a blast in each others' company. Heck, we get four or five slow-motion interludes of them cavorting to club hits proving it. At other times their cross-generational chemistry is more genuinely conveyed.

The writing-directing team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore work in alternating currents of coincidence and crisis. All three younger women learn simultaneously that their estranged, unwelcome or barely tolerated mothers are visiting for Christmas. During a drunken shopping montage they vow to take back the holiday.

That means Amy kicking smooth jazzer Kenny G out of her home, one of her mother's expensive stabs at stealing attention. It means Kiki kicking Mom out of her bedroom before having sex. For Carla, it's giving an intimate hot wax to a male dancer (Justin Hartley). One episode won't necessarily lead to the next but some of the smuttiest click.

Then there are moments when Lucas and Moore scrape the bottom of the barrel. It's funny one time to have a little girl drop a blasphemous f-bomb, maybe twice. After that it's cringe-worthy and a callback at the finale is just plain lazy. Not even smart casting saves dumb moves like that.

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

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